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  • Writer's pictureMaria Sotos

Covid and Social Anxiety

A theme that has come up quite a bit in recent months is awkwardness around social relationships whether it be going back to work in person, seeing friends regularly for the first time, or getting back into dating. I want to invite everyone to hold space for the awkwardness. Allow yourself to be weird and messy while re-learning how to engage with people in person in these new ways for the first time in so long. For most of us it will take time to re-gain confidence in these situations we may have been out for a couple of years. There have also been permanent changes in social structures that may differ from individual to individual and it will take time to learn to navigate those differences. Someone who may have been a hugger pre-covid may not feel comfortable hugging most people now. Some people might still only feel comfortable meeting in outdoor gatherings or staying 6 feet apart. Covid may also be more of a concern for individuals with underlying conditions which they may or may not feel comfortable disclosing with people they come in contact with. I think asking what contact someone feels comfortable with is always safe before jumping into a hug or handshake. Similarly, because we have been so isolated and not used to in-person social interactions, we may experience “social overload” much quicker or with less social interaction than we have in the past. Those of us who experienced social phobias or social anxieties prior to the pandemic may also have a more difficult time feeling comfortable getting back into in-person social engagements and/or difficulty getting motivated to even get out of the house again.

I also want to hold space for the ways all of these may interact with or be compounded by systemic oppression. For example, it makes sense that you might feel worse as someone who faces systemic oppressions in shared spaces going back into the office again and facing racist

micro-aggressions or fat-phobic comments from co-workers or people not respecting your pronouns. Those comments or actions are not okay. I wish that your interactions where you are truly seen, loved, and cared for overshadow the negativity or ignorance you may be facing at this time.

Let’s be gentle with ourselves and each other learning. Give yourself and others time and space to figure it out and relearn how to be present in these shared spaces. This is not an invitation to tolerate abuse or act abusively towards others but to forgive ourselves and others if som

ething didn’t come out quite right or we feel uncomfortable in spaces we used to feel comfortable. Get curious about what works and what does not work for you.

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